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John 15:9-17

The Greatest Gift of My Mother

Every year, when Mother’s Day comes, it brings back memories of my mother. The thing that comes to my mind first is a red paper flower. When I was in third grade, I learned how to make a paper flower for Mother’s Day. My teacher taught me how to make it in school. And then, I took it and put it on my mother’s shirt on Mother’s Day. My mother looked happy with a big smiling face. I thought that was the way I could make my mom happy. From that point forward, I used to create a red paper flower for my mother every Mother’s Day. Sadly, I no longer make the paper flower for my mother because she’s gone to her heavenly home.

As I mentioned several times, I was the most painful finger of my mother, which means I was in her tears and prayers. Among my siblings, I was the last one who believed in God. My siblings followed my mother to the church from childhood. However, I mainly spent my time with my friends. When I became a Christian, and when I became a pastor, was one of God’s answers to my mother’s prayers. Prayer has the power to make things happen. Jesus said, “This kind can come out only through prayer” (Mark 9:29). If you pray for your children and grandchildren to grow in faith, keep doing so continuously. Even if it looks like your prayers for them aren’t being answered, they are on God’s list already. My mother gave me many things, including my body and my life. Among them, my mother’s greatest gift was that she led me to meet Jesus in faith. I gave my mother the gift of a red paper flower, but can do so no longer. She gave me the gift of everlasting love through Jesus.

Today’s scripture seems to like talking about the friendship between Jesus and us. Few of us would deny that friendship is a gift from God. But most of us would like to ignore the fact that friendship requires vulnerability, hard work, and a willingness to share with others. These are the qualities Jesus showed us in his life and ministry, and according to the Gospel of John, Chapter 15, our Lord calls us to love one another in the same way. Just as God shares with us fully and intimately through Jesus Christ, we are also asked to offer ourselves to others in love. Friendship must surely be one of God’s greatest gifts to us. It is what God wants for us. According to today’s scripture, God wants friendships not only for us but also with us. Jesus says, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15).

Last Sunday, we talked about “abiding in the Lord.” We have to abide in the Lord Jesus Christ to bear much fruit and become his disciples. So, we wonder what kind of relationship Jesus wants with us. Do not be confused. Jesus wants us to understand the intimate relationship between him and us. The reason Jesus calls us friends is that Jesus loves us as God loves him. Jesus wants to share the joy of God with us, saying, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). The way to be Jesus’ friend is to love each other as Jesus taught us. Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command (14).” If I said it in my words, it would be like this: ‘You know me, Jesus is saying. You know with whom I eat and the people with whom I contend; you know what makes me angry, and you know those for whom I have mercy; you’ve heard my parables and learned my prayers. That’s how it is with friends. They share what is most important with one another. And if you want to be my friend, Jesus is saying, then you’ve got to share my love, too.

In today’s scripture, Jesus says clearly, “I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father (15).” There are no secrets between my best friend and me. Even if I have things I couldn’t tell anyone else, I have nothing I couldn’t tell my best friend, and my best friend feels the same about me as well. Also I know what my friend likes or dislikes. I know what my friend wants to be, and wants to do. And she knows the same about me as well. As we share our stories, we became closer. Like this, Jesus told his disciples about the kingdom of God, the good news, and his mission on the cross, whether they understood or not.

But as you know, friendships might be broken by betrayal, denial, disappointment, fighting, or distrust. Like Jesus’ disciples, Judah betrayed; Peter denied, and the others disappointed and abandoned him. However, Jesus laid down his life for his friends/disciples with the greater love, and he still calls them friends. Furthermore, he gave them a second chance. Their friendship in Jesus became greater, and they understood how important abiding in Jesus’ love was. Love one another. It sounds so very good, but is so very difficult to do. It’s often difficult to share ourselves with others, to be vulnerable to their rejection and uncertain of their response.

Jesus’ love is that he called us first, and he wanted to be our light in the dark world, the bread of life for the hungry, and the good shepherd for the wandering sheep. Jesus, in the Gospel of John, explains how important the relationship is between Jesus and us using parables such as “I am the light of the world:”, “I am the good shepherd:”, “I am the bread of life.”, “I am the true vine, and you are the branches:”, and “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Just imagine how could sheep live without a good shepherd, how can we live without bread and light in the dark world, how can the branches sustain their life without the vine tree? Jesus emphasizes that we cannot live in the world without his love and grace. He says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (15:5b). If there is no love, people may fight, compete and hurt one another. People without love may think that they can get whatever they want if the other is not there. People without love may blame and grumble at others whenever they faced a crisis as the Israelites did in the wilderness.

Jesus is love and our life. So, we have to abide in Jesus to sustain our life. Jesus says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”  Jesus’ commandments are not the 665 required laws, but only love God and love one another. If we love God and love one another, we can abide in our Lord. Jesus is the resource of love and joy. As I mentioned earlier, the greatest gift my mother gave me was to lead me to Jesus through her prayers, by her faith journey and by showing her commitment to loving God and loving her neighbors. She is gone, but her greatest gift is still with me through Jesus. I would ask you, what kind of gift would you like to give your children and grandchildren? Why don’t you share Jesus’ love with them? Thanks be to God. Amen!